From the monthly archives: "August 2003"

Can you identify a grub/larva whatever for me? I live in the south east of england and found two of these horrible things in my garden, or rather my dog did. They are about 3 inches long and fat, the head end of its body about 2 inches in circumference. It is greenish brown, and the most distinctive marking is on its head, it has markings like two large eyes. It makes it look like a ‘pretty’ nursery rhyme sort of insect character. My dog found one is some bindweed undergrowth and the other on a fuchsia bush. Can you help me please. Havent had any luck from anyone else.
Thanks, Mary Thomas

Dear Mary,
It sounds like you have found some type of caterpillar, most probably a Swallowtail Butterfly or a Giant Silk Moth of some type. The eyelike markings are a defense mechanism to frighten birds, one of the greatest threats to a plump juicy caterpillar. Here in the U.S. we have several Swallowtail Caterpillars that could possibly fit your description, including the Western Tiger Swallowtail and the Spicebrush Swallowtail. It is possible that you have a European species that has a similar looking caterpillar. Here are some images of Papilio troilus, the Spicebrush Swallowtail, I downloaded.

These look like nursery rhyme characters, and are frightful to birds. Unfortunately, they do not live in England and I can’t seem to find much information on your local fauna to give you a more accurate identification.

I did my research on your site (it was very helpful…thanks) and took this pic to send for your files if you want it…
Liisa Abbatiello

Dear Liisa,
I’m so glad our site was helpful. We have gotten several letters describing what your photo depicts, the parasitization of the Tomato Hornworm by Braconid Wasps. A picture is worth 1000 words. Thank you so much.

A HUGE bug I thought was going to carry my dachshund away!!!

Dear Bugman,
I looked through ALL of your pictures to try to ID my bug and not “bug” you, but I didn’t see it. I live in San Antonio, TX. The other night I heard a loud “bump” on the window near my recliner. I looked out to see the LARGEST bug I have ever seen. I thought perhaps it was a bird or a bat, but it hid under my son’s toy lawnmower, and my husband got a broom to move the lawnmower to get it out, and he said it was a bug. It was attracted to light, because when it was dark outside, it hit my window trying to get to my light inside. When we turned the lights on the porch on, he flew around, rather clumsily, toward the light. It’s wingspan had to be close to 6″-8″, and it was black and white variegated, almost like a flame stitch… kind of striped, but scribble striped. I swear I thought it had a skin-like covering over itself. I didn’t see an exoskeleton, but my husband swore it was a bug, and he was closer to it.
Thank You

Dear Rebecca,
I sure hope I can help you before you loose your dachsund. I’m not exactly sure, but here goes a guess. Tobacco Sphinx Moths, Manduca Sexta, grow large, and can have a wingspan in excess of five inches. They also have a robust body. They are attracted to lights and have a mottled pattern on the wings much as you describe. Since their bodies are covered with scales, they do not appear to have an exoskeleton. Here is a photo. Let us know.


Recently we have found about 6 of the very large tomato hornworms(?) on our 2 tomato plants. They look very similar to the black and white photo on your website. Half of them had white oval fuzzy pieces all over the outside of their bodies. What are those? Eggs? We took them off the plant by either breaking the stems they were on or by picking them off with a Popsicle stick. They are eating our plants down to the stalks!

Dear Rebecca,
Those “eggs” you saw were in fact the cocoons of a parasitic Braconid wasp which was devouring the tomato hornworm alive. Nature’s own pesticide.

Hi Bugman.
I found this insect at a wildlife refuge in northwest Colorado. At first I thought it was a damsel fly, but when I got a better look it doesn’t appear to be that at all. It’s overall length was a little less than 2 inches, and there were several of them flying about and hiding in tall grass not far from a pond. An ID on this guy would really help me out. Thanks, Tom W.
Dear Tom,
It is an Antlion, Family Myrmeleontidae. The larvae are called Doodle Bugs and they bury themselves in the sand at the bottom of a pit and wait for other insects, including ants, to fall into their waiting jaws. Adults are feeble fliers and are attracted to lights.

Dear bug man,
I was wondering if you could help me out and identify this bug. It fell out of a tree, landed on my boss’s face and stung him. I have attached a photo of the offender. The bug is about 1⁄4 of an inch in length. It is black with an orange U on its back; it has six legs and a very small head. Its abdomen is slightly flattened. Also, it has some very spikey hairs on its back- not very long but they remind me of the hairs on a caterpillar. Any help would be appreciated

Dear Amanda,
You are probably going to find this hard to believe, but that was a young ladybug that landed on your boss’ face. While it is doubtful that it mistook your boss for an aphid, you must remember that both adult and larval forms of ladybugs are voracious hunters, and perhaps your specimen was just hungry. They don’t sting, but they could bite.